Catherine Di Gangi
The newly formed Northeastern Mutual Aid hosts events and fosters communication with students to offer support and resources in light of the new challenges with COVID-19.
“We realized that there was a lot of information coming at students because this was mid-August, and no one really knew what was happening. We figured that there should be an organization that is dedicated to helping students navigate this pandemic at school and sharing resources, and just generally helping each other out because it’s a stressful time for everyone,” said Catherine Di Gangi, a third-year health science major and organizer of Northeastern Mutual Aid. “We’re trying to make a student to student network where people can provide the resources other people need because of the pandemic.”
Using Instagram and Slack, Northeastern Mutual Aid has created a network for students who are in need of resources outside of what the university offers, enabling contributions from those looking to lend a hand. Maddi Allocco, a third-year health science major and organizer of Northeastern Mutual Aid, shared the organization’s commitment to building a community that supports and unites students.
“It’s just great communication. It’s a great way to not feel isolated; it’s a huge network of people chatting and working towards a common goal,” she said.
Northeastern Mutual Aid’s focus on community is motivated by increasing concerns regarding students’ mental health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the main gaps we saw was that there weren’t really mental health resources being advertised for students, [and] we knew that there were going to be mental health issues arising from this pandemic because it’s such a stressful and traumatic situation for a lot of people,” Di Gangi said.
The organization also devotes a section of their website to providing resources and information that could help students who have suddenly found themselves encumbered by the stressful nature of the pandemic.
One of Northeastern Mutual Aid’s first initiatives was creating a channel on Slack to help students circumvent the recent delays at ResMail.
“We have an option that if students want to get their packages sent to an off-campus student, people have offered their addresses and they can send it to there and pick it up or arrange with the student to have it dropped off,” Di Gangi said.
Northeastern Mutual Aid has already begun to host events that offer support to students, such as the mobile food drive held September 26.
“There’s not a food pantry on campus, if you’re an off-campus student you do not have a meal plan most likely, and you could be facing food insecurity, so we wanted to make an event that helps people out with that,” Di Gangi said.
The event spanned across three different locations on Northeastern’s campus, and served food to more than two dozen students, who had the option of individual items or a premade bag filled with nonperishable meals and snacks such as oatmeal and ramen. The food drive included a variety of options to accommodate different diets.
Andrea Patton, a Northeastern graduate student and volunteer for the mobile food drive, discussed how the organization has set a tone for inclusivity.
“We’re not surveying anybody about any reason to take the food,” she said.
Northeastern Mutual Aid unites students through its core values of inclusivity, empathy, and camaraderie.
“The idea of Mutual Aid is solidarity, not charity,” Patton said. “We are folks who just want to make sure that if there are needs out there that can be met within the community of Northeastern students, we want to be able to do it, that’s our driving mission.”